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3 Falcons up, 3 Falcons down in Week 17 win over Panthers

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What Super Bowl hangover?

Carolina Panthers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Falcons punched their ticket to the postseason with a 22-10 win over the Carolina Panthers.

Who’s up and who’s down in the win?

Up

Robert Alford

The cornerback showed out Sunday afternoon, allowing just three catches on nine targets. He also racked up three pass deflections and an interception that prevented the Panthers from tacking on a garbage time score. Two of his pass breakups came on back-to-back plays in the first quarter that put the Panthers in a 3rd and 10 situation that they didn’t covert.

Grady Jarrett

There’s no logical reason why Jarrett wasn’t selected to the Pro Bowl. The defensive tackle made it look easy going up against Carolina’s interior. On one particular play, Jarrett easily beat right guard Trai Turner to sack Cam Newton for an 11-yard loss. He also notched a few stops in the run game. He should be a Pro Bowler, period.

Matt Ryan

Ryan was his usual sharp self, racking up 317 yards and a touchdown on 28 of 45 passing. He also broke an record set by Peyton Manning as he passed for more yards in his first 10 seasons than any other player in NFL history. Oh, and let’s not forget he juked the soul out of Luke Kuechly on a 13-yard gain in the third quarter.

Down

Brian Poole

It didn’t take long for Atlanta to commit its first penalty, and it came on Carolina’s first possession of the game. The Falcons forced a three and out and Poole was flagged for holding on the punt return — a penalty that set the Falcons up from their own 15. Poole’s worst play came on a 3rd and 23 late in the second quarter. He was apparently fooled by Brenton Bersin’s route, and allowed the Panthers wide receiver to run right pass him for a 27-yard catch.

Running game

Atlanta’s ground game has been stifled the past two weeks. Against the Panthers, the Falcons rushed 26 times for 60 yards. Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman both finished with 11 carries for 23 yards, while Ryan had three rushes for 14 yards. Granted Carolina ended the regular season with the league’s third-ranked rush defense, but it’s not good to see the ground attack struggle again after being held in check by the New Orleans Saints’ 16th-ranked rush defense.

Super Bowl hangover

Talk of the Falcons being unable to make it back to the postseason after the Super Bowl collapse dominated the offseason. Credit Atlanta for being the only NFC team from last year to make it to the playoffs this season, and laugh at everyone who seriously asserted the hangover narrative.